An American girl dreams of meeting her father in What a Girl Wants and is born to stand out in this teen comedy starring Amanda Bynes.
When you’re hanging around the Roy family for several hours at a time, you need a comedy to wind down from all the drama. The comedy of choice is What a Girl Wants (okay, actually two comedies). It’s been several years but it’s still a fun comedy to watch. Amanda Bynes is such a talented comedic performer and those talents are on display in this comedy. Plus, you can never go wrong with Colin Firth!
The gist of the film is simple. Daphne Reynolds (Amanda Bynes) is an American girl born to Libby Reynolds (Kelly Preston). She’s never met her biological father but Libby tells the story of meeting Lord Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth) every year on her birthday. In fact, Daphne has the same birthday wish every year: meeting her father. They’d be together if it weren’t for family advisor Alistair Payne (Jonathan Pryce). He has his own plans but thinks it is in Henry’s best interest to not tell him that Libby is pregnant and running her out of town. And so, the two of them spend the next seventeen years living apart from each other. Of course, Libby has never had feelings for anyone else while Henry is engaged to marry Glynnis Payne (Anna Chancellor). Glynnis has a snobby and brattt daughter, Clarissa (Christina Cole), much like herself.
It’s certainly no surprise to see Daphne develop an interest in British musician Ian Wallace (Oliver James). We come to learn, however, that he’s a young man with many jobs. Lord Dashwood even takes a liking to Ian, too. But anyway, no matter how many times that Daphne tries fitting in, as Ian tells her, she’s born to stand out. True to this saying, there’s a montage where Daphne changes her behavior because Henry’s campaign is suffering. While this is happening, Ian is upset because she’s no longer the young woman he fell in love with.
Things come to a head during Daphne’s coming-out party. Right before she finally has the chance to get her father-daughter dance, Daphne overhears Alistair bragging to Glynnis that he got rid of Libby 17 years before. Glynnis locks Daphne away and Libby, who flew over, frees her daughter. Daphne decides it is in her best interest to go back to America. Sometime later, Henry quits the campaign and flies over to finally have the dance with his daughter. Everyone gets their happy ending.
The comedy is exactly what you’d expect from a teen comedy especially in the fish-out-of-water genre. It is not a lie to say that the film plays up the fish-out-of-water aspect! And again, Amanda Bynes is a comedic talent and the film plays to her strengths. I also like the chemistry between her, Firth, and Eileen Atkins, who plays Lady Jocelyn Dashwood. Thankfully, the film has second life through Netflix but all good things must come to an end. However, it will still be streaming on HBO Max from what I can tell.
Jenny Bicks and Elizabeth Chandler’s screenplay is based on the 1955 play, The Reluctant Debutante, by William Douglas-Home. The film is the second adaptation of the play as a previous film was released in 1958.
What a Girl Wants may be predictable but this comedy will never not be enjoyable.
DIRECTOR: Dennie Gordon
SCREENWRITERS: Jenny Bicks and Elizabeth Chandler
CAST: Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth, Kelly Preston, Eileen Atkins, Anna Chancellor, and Jonathan Pryce
Warner Bros. released What a Girl Wants in theaters on April 4, 2003.
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